Skyscraping arts, retail, housing development planned beside BAM

Developers say they’ll pave over a parking lot and put up paradise next to the Brooklyn Academy of Music when they build a cultural center topped with housing.

Two Trees Management plans to break ground next year on a 32-story high-rise featuring studios and cinemas for BAM, a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, space for the African diasporan cultural organization 651 Arts, a public plaza for outdoor performances, retail space, and 300 to 400 residential units on a triangular plot bounded by Ashland Place and Flatbush and Lafayette avenues.

Replacing the city-owned parking lot with the development is a no-brainer, said Two Trees director of special projects Dave Lombino.

“Right now, it’s an eyesore and a missed opportunity to connect everything that’s happening in Downtown Brooklyn,” he said.

The idea for the project has been kicking around since 2004 and Two Trees — a huge player in DUMBO that has started branching out of the neighborhood by developing the Wythe Hotel and acquiring the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg — came on board in 2009.

The company, helmed by DUMBO pioneer David Walentas, took its time sorting out architectural plans amid the faltering economy. It recently brought in celebrity architect Enrique Norten, who previously designed a glassy but controversial Carroll Street building and is already working with Two Trees on a twisting staircase-like structure dubbed Mercedes House in Manhattan.

Planners say the proposed structure, which must pass through the city’s land-use review process, will be a work of art worthy of its prominent location in the so-called BAM Cultural District.

“Everyone was eager for this to have iconic architecture, since it’s a very public site,” said Lombino.

So far, a handful of politicians have voiced their support for the project, including Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Markowitz, and Councilwoman Tish James (D–Fort Greene) — who is particularly excited by a promise that 20 percent of apartments will charge rents that are below market-rate.

“Fort Greene has historically been home to countless artists who are in need of affordable housing,” said James. “This plan will provide additional arts space for those creative forces in this community, and affordable housing to address the demand. It is a mix that reflects the needs of a creative and diverse district.”

And the Two Trees project won’t be the only new building towering over BAM — the city’s department of Housing, Preservation and Development is joining forces with the Gotham Organiation and DT Salazar to construct a massive, 600-unit apartment building with spaces reserved for cultural institutions, retail, and offices on a site bounded by Fulton Street and Ashland and Rockwell places. The proposed development will offer 300 units with rents below market-rate.

The city also released a request for proposals for what it describes as the last remaining empty parcel in the BAM Cultural District at the corner of Ashland Place and Lafayette Avenue.